What kinds of technology tools can help mediators and other ADR professionals promote and manage business? Here are the tools I use for marketing and managing my private practice and recommend for your consideration. I discuss a number of these tools in detail in an interview to be released soon on CD.
Tech Tools for Promoting Your Practice
- Blogging software. Instead of web development software for your new or enhanced site, consider blogging software. It’s simple to use, your webhost may already offer it as part of your package, and it’s easy to add and update site content. I’m a WordPress fan.
- Autoresponder. I use and recommend AWeber. Not sure what an autoresponder is or does? Take a look at my short series, beginning with Building Client Relationships with Autoresponders.
- Digital audio recording software. I’ve used and been satisfied with AudioAcrobat for creating welcome audio (see the right-hand navigation bar on this site), recording interviews, creating audio FAQs, and recording teleclasses.
- Site metrics. If you have a website or blog, then you want metrics to help track traffic to your site and find out what pages or articles generate the most interest, where people enter your site (it’s not always from the home page if they find you through a search engine) and where they exit. If you presently have a website, then your webhost probably has a metrics package already measuring these stats – get in touch with them to find out how to access it. For blogging metrics, I use FeedBurner and Performancing.
Tech Tools for Managing Your Business
- Call management software. Route your calls to your cell phone or any other phone, choose different business hours and after-hours messages, offer multiple voicemail boxes (I have one designated for weather cancellation notices, New Englander that I am), receive faxes to your computer inbox. Take a look at GotVMail.
- Online invoicing. Simplify your invoicing or offer payment via a website shopping cart without setting up credit card processing procedures. While there are many powerful options out there, I am happy with FreshBooks.
- Online appointment scheduling. If you don’t have an assistant and are not always available by phone, consider allowing your clients and prospects to book themselves if your market is Internet-savvy. At the time I write this, I’m experimenting with AppointmentQuest.
- Online event calendar. Use for promoting upcoming information sessions or trainings. I’m experimenting with Trumba, which is free and can be added to your own website (there is also a paid upgrade to sync with your Outlook calendar).
- PDF document converter. If you send documents (contracts, agreements to mediate, letters) over the Internet you want to make sure that they arrive on the other end in the same format you sent them. PDF-formatting ensures this and Adobe makes a free reader now automatically installed on most new computers. If you want the full power of Adobe like I do you can purchase the package; otherwise, try a low-cost PDF document converter like FinePrint PDF Factory.
- Outlook add-ins. If you’re an Outlook user, consider using add-ins to make a good program a great one. I highly recommend by GTD and ClearContext (pick one or the other but don’t try to use both at once).
Tech Tools for Learning More About ADR, Marketing and Business
- RSS news aggregator. Read other blogs effortlessly by subscribing through an RSS reader. I’ve recommended Onfolio in the past and now use Bloglines (Onfolio was recently purchased by Microsoft and Internet Explorer isn’t my browser of choice).
- Podcasts. There are some terrific podcasts out there on just about any subject you can imagine—and they’re usually free. I use iTunes to automatically download new podcasts to my Windows computer (you don’t need a Mac to use iTunes) and my iPod to listen to them while driving or cleaning house. Some of my favorites include Negotiation Tip of the Week, Contrary Public Speaker, BusinessWeek Cover Story, and for a daily chuckle, The Onion Radio News.
I’ll add to, delete from, and update this list as I find or fall out of love with tech resources. I’ve posted a copy in the main navigation bar to the right, so you can always find it easily.